Tag Archive | "Bridgehampton CAC"

Sagaponack and Bridgehampton Residents Criticize Proposed Changes to Bridge Lane Bridge

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By Tessa Raebeck

Some 30 residents of Sagaponack and Bridgehampton came to the Bridgehampton Community Center last Wednesday night to express their concerns over a project they say will change the face of their home — the rehabilitation of the bridge that gives Bridge Lane its name.

Alex Gregor, highway superintendent for Southampton Town, hosted a public forum on the bridge restoration project, a multi-faceted restoration to improve safety. The project, residents say, has unnecessary changes that, in addition to altering the character of the bridge, will pose greater risk to the pedestrians who use it for crabbing, fishing and swimming.

“That bridge is part of our rapidly vanishing hometown,” said Marilee Foster, a Sagaponack farmer who serves on the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

Lisa Duryea Thayer, a Sagaponack Village trustee, called the project “very offensive to the character of our area.”

Built in 1923, the bridge is not new to controversy. When Suffolk County owned the bridge and attempted to demolish it and replace it with a modern steel structure in the 1980s, residents fought a five-year battle to keep it, culminating successfully in 1988.

“This whole battle,” recalled Donald Louchheim, mayor of Sagaponack Village, “was fought out for exactly the same reasons that you are giving today…now in effect, the town is reneging on the commitment that it made 25 years ago.”

Costing between $890,000 and $1 million, the project would widen the two traffic lanes, repave the roadway approaching the bridge on either side, replace the guardrails, put in drainage, replace the seawalls on either side and install leaching pools — pits that absorb liquid into the soil.

“Please believe me,” Gregor told the disgruntled crowd, “I don’t like to spend a million dollars on something unless we have to.”’

The travel lanes, currently at about 8.5 feet, need to be widened to today’s standard of 10 feet, Gregor said, which would leave no room for a sidewalk on the bridge.

“I grew up next to that bridge,” said Sagaponack resident and former mayor Bill Tillotsen. “I’ve swum off of it, I’ve jumped off of it, I’ve fished off it … the sidewalk there is inadequate but without it you’re going to create a real funnel for traffic.”

Town officials began looking into funding for this project back 2005, before Gregor was in office. In 2006, an average of about 1,200 vehicles crossed over the bridge each day, according to the town.

By the time Gregor took office in 2010, he said, the town had already bonded close to half a million dollars for the rehabilitation project.

A federal grant for $500,000 was “one of the last Congressional earmarks that [Congressman] Tim Bishop got out in 2008,” Gregor said.

By accepting the federal aid, the town is required to keep the project consistent with federal and state regulations, which mandate many of the project’s elements which residents are highly critical, such as the widened lanes and new guardrails.

Cathy Gandel, co-chair of the Bridgehampton CAC (Citizens Advisory Committee), told Gregor, “you keep talking about safety — which we all want — but what makes you think that two 10-foot lanes with that guardrail [would improve safety]? People slow down now over that bridge because it’s narrow.”

“Tell the mayor and the trustees to get the cop there and write some tickets on the bridge,” Gregor responded.

Following the forum, Gandel’s husband, Earl Gandel, recalled a time in the late 1940s when international road races were held in Bridgehampton, with racers crossing over the bridge.

“We’re getting ready to change the nature of a bridge that I think a lot of people are really attached to,” Foster said. “I just feel really kicked in the face by this project because people love this place, people love the bridge.”

“I don’t think,” replied Gregor, “a 1923 bridge makes it historic, but I’m not going to insult historians in that.”

Several residents, along with Sagaponack Village’s consulting engineer Drew Brennan, asked Gregor to consider an alternative option that would make the basic repairs to the bridge without taking the federal grants that mandate the most aesthetically altering — and controversial —components of the project.

Brennan estimated that option would cost the town up to $700,000 and those in attendance asked Gregor to commit to looking into it.

“Our boards every month,” said Louchheim, “are struggling mightily to preserve as much as possible the rural and historic and scenic character of the Town of Southampton and quite frankly, the bridge is a vital part of that.”

Gregor said he and his team would consider the residents’ input and “regroup.”

“But,” he said, “I would be wrong in telling you I’m not still leaning forward.”

Linda Franke asked whether the public forum was just hosted as a gesture.

“It’s a condition and a gesture,” Gregor replied.

Southampton Town Trustees Explores the Balance of Beach Protection & Public Access

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By Tessa Raebeck

A home sold in the 1960s due to the owner’s belief in its inevitable demise at the hands of Mother Nature is still standing today — but the expansive beaches that once surrounded it have disappeared entirely.

The Southampton home, which belonged to the family of lifetime resident and Southampton Town Trustee Fred Havemeyer, now juts out to the sea on a shaky promontory. Barricades built by neighbors to protect their own homes have preserved the structure, while the beaches that once made it a desirable home have been destroyed.

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy last October, year round residents and local officials are questioning the legality — as well as the ethics — of sacrificing public beaches in order to preserve private properties. At the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting Monday night, Havemeyer addressed attendants on the duty of the Southampton Town Trustees to protect the community beaches. He stressed the importance of beach preservation for both recreational and economic reasons, as well as the ongoing threat to public beaches posed by bulkheads or man-made barricades.

“It’s been going on for centuries, it’s not a new thing,” Havemeyer said of coastal erosion.

The trustees, who are responsible for safeguarding the marine community and protecting public access rights, maintain that construction of such bulkheads severely hastens the erosion process. Oceanfront homes, belonging predominantly to wealthy, seasonal residents, are temporarily preserved while local beaches are obliterated.

Havemeyer put it simply, “You put in bulkheads, you lose beaches.”

“I think it is important to remember that there is a population on the East End that lives and votes here year round,” CAC member and former chairman Fred Cammann wrote in a letter to the committee. “We respect the power of storms and we know not to challenge the forces of nature with artificial Band-Aids because our experience has shown this to be folly. Multiple generations know that one may live with, but never try to control, our ever changing environment.”

Following the coastal destruction from Superstorm Sandy, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a permit allowing homeowners to restore sections of existing bulkheads and hard structures on the beach which were damaged to a height no greater than 18 inches above the original structure.

The trustees, along with members of the CAC, claim that many homeowners violated the spirit of the permit by rebuilding the structures altogether rather than restoring the damaged areas as authorized. Allegedly, many homeowners used unstable wooden fences in the dunes, which lie above the buried bulkheads, as a benchmark for reconstruction rather than the bulkheads themselves.

The resulting bulkheads are therefore higher and more extensive than the DEC regulations permit. One example in Bridgehampton, according to CAC vice chair Jeffrey Mansfield, was a wooden bulkhead that extended one foot above the sand being removed and replaced by a steel bulkhead protruding five feet above sand level.

Many states with coastal communities, including Washington, Texas and the Carolinas, have enacted laws to limit or prohibit the construction of bulkheads due to perceived negative environmental effects. Havemeyer, who has been monitoring the bays and beaches of Southampton daily for the past 11 years, claims that in order to combat erosion resulting from bulkheads, massive beach replenishment projects are necessary.

He warned the CAC, “We are harnessing everybody into a situation that once this is put in, we will have to replenish [the beaches] forever.”

The trustee maintains that these projects could be required as often as biannually, at an immense and ever increasing cost to taxpayers.

Opponents of individual barricades reference an even more drastic cost to local residents; the loss of public beaches which would command the loss of the central component of the East End’s vibrant tourism industry and thus severely damage the area’s economic vitality.

“We’re really defining a moment where we could lose the most important aspect that we have, which is the Atlantic beaches,” said Havemeyer.

The Southampton Town Trustees, with the support of the Bridgehampton CAC, believe these homeowners will inevitably discover that, unlike oceanfront homes and steel barricades, Mother Nature cannot be bought. They are hopeful that legal regulations will aid in their campaign to preserve public beaches, but worry that many oceanfront homeowners have such substantial wealth that they consider themselves to be above the law.

“During the next 20, 30 years while we’re waiting for Mother Nature to show the hedge funds who’s boss, we — the year round residents — will be suffering,” Mansfield said in Monday’s meeting.

Citing the area around an existing bulkhead from the early 1980s, he said, “No matter if you’re a beachcomber, a dog walker, a fisherman, or a surfer, you can’t get to the beach.”

Trustees Seek Support to Continue Battle for Access Rights

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In the wake of a court decision last month which Southampton Town Trustees believe endangers their ability to regulate beaches, and therefore protect access, on Monday night they sought the support of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).

With members of the East Hampton-based not-for-profit Citizens for Access Rights (CfAR) in attendance, the trustees implored the CAC to put political pressure on town and state officials to ensure over three centuries of legal precedence is not eroded and shorelines are protected from being bulkheaded into oblivion.

CAC co-chairman Stephen Steinberg made it clear from the outset the trustees had come to the committee for support.

“An erosion of this kind of power with a lack of support from the town board will hurt us in terms of trying to protect the natural beauty we have,” said Steinberg. “This is a town built on its beaches. Without our beaches, we might as well be Arizona.”

In the May 9 decision, State Supreme Court Justice Peter H. Mayer ruled that the town trustee’s power does not give them control over beach landward of the high tide mark. The decision was a judgment in favor of Quogue Village and two homeowners who buried fabric tubes filled with sand under dunes to prevent erosion of the beach.

Justice Mayer plainly states in the decision that while the trustees have the right to retain title to underwater lands and can control what structures are built on those lands, it does not have control of the shores or beaches on the South Fork.

As Southampton Town Trustees President Eric Schultz explained on Monday night, the trustees do hold title over the town’s underwater lands, but also have had an easement over the shorelines and beaches of Southampton’s oceans and bays. The reason that jurisdiction — which has been upheld in three separate court cases — is important, said Schultz, is because it protects residents access to the beaches and prevents waterfront property owners from erecting structures on the beach to essentially privatize them.

The concern with shoreline hardening structures, said Schultz, including bulkheads, the sand filled tubes used in Quogue known as Geotubes or rock revetments, is the trustees believe when they are erected on a beach other sections of the beachfront erode at a faster pace, which could ultimately harm public access.

“It’s drawing a line in the sand,” said Schultz. “It’s not allowing the beach to move northward. Once you establish a hard, fast line that beach will diminish.”

However, the trustees’ hard line stance against shoreline hardening has drawn several lawsuits in the last decade, mainly from property owners stating they are simply trying to protect their land from literally being eroded away.

Schultz said the trustees have the funding to appeal the Mayer decision, which they intend to do, but that the trustees want to mobilize the community.

“Our trouble right now is we need the community to start getting behind the trustees and asking the state assembly, the town board what we are doing to protect the trustees,” said Schultz.

He said that community support could come in the way of residents calling on state lawmakers to pass legislation that supports the trustee’s regulatory rights over the beaches or to call on town officials to support the trustees more, financially and otherwise.

“I am very concerned because I was told by a town official that this issue wasn’t about access, it was about erosion and I couldn’t disagree more,” said CAC member Jeff Mansfield.

Noting that if someone builds a home on the crest of a dune they should expect erosion will likely become an issue, Schultz said he would like to see the State of New York adopt laws that places the burden on those homeowners rather than expect the public to forgo their right to the beach.

“We are looking for your support politically,” said trustee Fred Havemeyer. “We need you to lobby, for you to realize these five guys have their fingers in the dike. If we take them out we are gone – that means you. We can survive financially, but what we need is a support base within the town.”

CfAR vice president David Lys said his group supports the trustees of both East Hampton and Southampton and that it is critical, particularly in election years, to make this a very public discussion.

“We recognize if there is a loss of rights in East Hampton or Southampton it has a regional affect,” said Lys.

Bridgehampton CAC Supports Ban on Plastic Bags

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Just over a month after the Southampton Town Board tabled a resolution to institute a ban on plastic bags, a majority of members of the Bridgehampton Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) voted this week to send a letter to the board showing their support the legislation and urging lawmakers to revive plans to move forward with the law.

On Monday night, Bridgehampton CAC member Jeff Mansfield raised the issue, questioning why the town would ever table a measure that on its face appeared to make so much sense.

“I like to consider myself an environmentalist, and just reading about this, it just makes sense,” said Mansfield, noting the East End’s greatest economic driver is its pristine waterways and beachfront, and untouched vistas of open space and farmland.

“I think we should be talking about this because it does not seem like they are talking about this in town hall right now,” said Mansfield.

Mansfield added that he feels the input and support of Bridgehampton residents was critical, as the hamlet is home to King Kullen, one of the larger grocery stores in the unincorporated neighborhoods in Southampton. Only those areas, not the villages in Southampton, would be subject to the legislation.

The town’s sustainability committee, led by Tip Brolin, first floated the proposal in the town last June.

The ban proposed to prohibit single-use plastic bags no less than two mils thick and less than 28-inches by 36-inches in size at store check-out counters. Smaller bags, like the ones found in the produce aisle of most grocery stores, or at the deli and fish counters, would not be subject to the ban.

The original proposal also included a provision that would allow stores to carry paper bags, in addition to re-useable bags, for customers provided they were made out of 40-percent recyclable materials. However, the provision was scaled back by December to allow paper bags that are made of 30-percent recyclable materials, as is commonly found at most grocery stores.

Brolin presented research to the town board that showed similar legislation in Westport, Conn. was successful, with 53-percent of shoppers polled using re-usable bags once the ban was in effect, compared to the neighboring community of Norwalk and Walton, which showed just 10-percent of shoppers used re-usable bags at the grocery store.

Brolin also pointed out that the use of plastic bags results in environmental damage, littering waterways and open spaces, impacting animal life, while also piling up in landfills.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst planned to roll out a six-month campaign prior to the ban taking effect to educate the public on when the ban would take place and what options were available outside of plastic bags.

If adopted, Southampton Town would have become the third municipality on the South Fork to ban plastic bags. Bans have been enacted in both East Hampton and Southampton Villages. While the issue has been raised by members of the public at the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees, no legislation has been introduced that would ban plastic bags in Sag Harbor.

However, Supervisor Throne-Holst was never able to push the legislation through after a Republican majority on the town board voted to not even host a public hearing on the law in December.

Councilmen Chris Nuzzi and Jim Malone were supported by now former councilwoman Nancy Grabowski — a Bridgehampton resident — in their desire to halt the public hearing. Instead, they were in favor of working with the business community to mount a public education campaign to promote the benefits of using re-usable bags.

Supervisor Throne-Holst and councilwoman Bridget Fleming, who pointed to statistics that showed these kinds of campaigns were ineffective, rebuked the majority, but they remained overruled.

On Wednesday morning, Jennifer Garvey, a spokeswoman for Supervisor Throne-Holst, said the supervisor was still committed to the idea of a plastic bag ban.

“When we met with the industry folks, everyone was in agreement that we should be using less plastic,” said Garvey. “The question is how we get there. Anna does not believe the education campaign will work, although we are willing to do it.”

Garvey added that the Supervisor came to this position based on Brolin and the Green committee’s extensive research into other municipalities that have and have not instituted similar bans.

Whether or not the issue ever comes to a head, she added, largely rests in the hands of new town councilwoman Christine Scalera, a Republican who has vowed to be a liaison to the committee that will lead the development of the educational campaign.

Scalera was not immediately available for comment.

However, for members of the Bridgehampton CAC that the issue appeared to be split along party lines was unacceptable. Mansfield questioned the real financial impact it would have on retailers. He argued most customers on the East End would be more than happy to pay a few extra cents to cover the cost of using a paper bag at a grocery store, or even buy re-usable bags, if it meant keeping the environment pristine.

“I think that would be money most of us in the community would spend to have this amount of pollution reduced,” said Mansfield.

“If I were in government, I would just do it,” agreed CAC secretary Richard Bruce. “It seems to me there are more people than grocery store owners so I think we should be able to win the day.”

CAC member Weezie Quimby said that member Ian MacPherson, unable to attend the meeting, was opposed to ban, citing the convenience, particularly for the elderly, in having plastic bags to carry groceries in.

CAC member Michael Kabot added the true cost for retailers to switch from plastic to paper and re-usable bags has not been fully explored. He did not believe it was the business of government to tell him what kind of bag he can use at the grocery store.

CAC member Peter Wilson said that while he was in favor of the idea, it may be industry leaders are controlling the discussion and that retailers are worried about the effect the ban would have on summer colony patrons, not the year-round community.

“There must be some political influences at play,” said CAC co-chair Stephen Steinberg. “I can assure you if Bridgehampton was a village we would have passed it right away.”


CAC Suggests Outreach in Ongoing Dispute Over Sand Pit in Noyac

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Sand Pit

Whether or not a sandpit on Middle Line Highway in Noyac on the border of Bridgehampton is operating legally is an issue still being debated in court and in the Town of Southampton. The property includes several buildings constructed without building permits as well as cement and wood grinding, mulching and compost services neighbors say were never approved uses.

On Monday, the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee began as a discussion about an impending zoning board of appeals meeting regarding the property, owned by the Sand-Land Corporation, and how the committee could weigh in on the plant. But it turned into a debate over how best to wage the battle, and whether or not compromise was the most realistic solution moving forward.

Bridgehampton CAC member Jenice Delano, who was backed up by Noyac Citizens Advisory Committee co-chair Sherry Kiselyak, championed the discussion — both women toting reams of paperwork on Sand Land’s history.

“The entire site is in Noyac,” explained Kiselyak of the 50-acre property. “But we have been getting a lot of calls from Bridgehampton residents.”

According to research compiled during a now two-year legal battle waged by a small group of neighbors protesting the non-sand mining related portions of the operation, the first record of the business dates to 1961.

In court documents, Sand Land attorney David Eagan has argued that the business on the property existed prior to the town code’s adoption in 1957, making it pre-existing, non-conforming and therefore legal.

Since 2010, the corporation has been trying to obtain a certificate of occupancy for the property from the town that confirms that status.

“There is no evidence that it existed prior to the application for a variance for a portable screening plant in 1961,” said Kiselyak.

In 1961, the building inspector denied a request by Bridgehampton Sand and Gravel “for the use of the land to remove from there gravel and some sand by means of a portable screening plant,” according to the variance decision.

The zoning board of appeals did grant a variance to allow the plant, but Delano noted it was under the restriction that the business could do only what it proposed — a sand and gravel mining operation.

The board noted it would not be able to approve a variance for any application that resulted in a use that would “be noxious or offensive by reason of the emission of odor, dust, fumes, smoke, gas, vibration or noise.”

The decision also states that once the firm removed gravel, it “should not leave a large hole.” Viewing the property from an aerial perspective, Delano noted in an interview on Friday, it is clear that aspect of the variance has not been kept.

Other records dug up in the case include a 1995 correspondence between Wayne Bruen, then Southampton Town deputy town attorney, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation regarding the Bridgehampton Material & Heavy Equipment Company’s request to allow composting on the property, an aspect of the business that continues today.

In that letter, Bruen writes that the “requested composting operation is considered to be a prohibited use” on the property, which is over an aquifer and is zoned residential. The letter noted that the landowners would need to file for a change of zone with the town board or seek a variance to allow composting on the site.

According to Delano, who has been in touch with the DEC regarding the application, it was never approved.

But according to a subsection of DEC law, some solid waste management and mining facilities do not need DEC permits, although businesses must register with the agency and file annual reports, which Sand Land has done.

Delano argues the company must still gain town permits to operate this kind of plant in a residential neighborhood. She added that the town — which uses the business’s composting facilities — has yet to respond to numerous inquires she made regarding the property.

In the meantime, three Southampton Town residents — Joseph Phair, Margot Gilman and Robert Flood — have filed suit to enjoin Sand Land from continuing to operate any uses on the site that are not legal under the town code.

According to their attorney, Zachary Murdock, Sand Land must prove the businesses operating on the site have been in use since before the town code was written in 1957.

In court documents, the company affirms it has been in business since before zoning was enacted in Southampton, with sworn affidavits filed by two employees, one now deceased, stating they worked on the property, composting on the site, prior to 1957.

However, Murdock has filed photographs of the property from 1963 and 1966 that show an active sand mine, but no other evidence of composting or other business uses.

While that case is pending, on August 18 the town’s zoning board of appeals will hear a variance application by Sand Land to legalize six buildings the town cited them for in 2006 for erecting without a building permit.

In a March 2009 letter to the zoning board, the Noyac CAC came out against the request, noting there is no certificate of occupancy for the property on file with the building department, although Sand Land has recently filed for a pre-existing certificate of occupancy.

The CAC further asks that the uses on the property be spelled out for the public, including uses in violation of the original zoning board decision, and it questions the amount of clearing on the site. They also ask the board look at truck traffic and its impact to the neighborhood.

“We question why they are before this board requesting variances at all, when all these structures can be built in a multitude of conforming locations throughout the site (provided the pre-existing can be proved),” the letter states.

Delano appeared to be trying to get the Bridgehampton CAC to file a similar letter, but while chairman Fred Cammann said he would coordinate efforts with the Noyac CAC, no formal action was taken.

“Is this a civics lesson that even though we have laws and they are not following the rules, the way forward is to ask them not to make too much noise,” asked a member of the audience.

“I think a lot of people have no idea how big it is,” said Donna D’Amiano. “At times the smell would literally knock you over.”

According to notes filed by Cammann after the meeting, the overall sense of the CAC is that the business may be illegal, but the most “realistic approach to minimizing the disturbance to the neighbors would be to enter discussions quietly with the owners of the business” on how it should be operated to reduce aggravation to neighbors.

“It was also the sense of the CAC that even if the necessary variances and permits are granted, the continuous operation of the business as it is presently conducted is unacceptable,” added Cammann.

Bridgehampton CAC Praises Beverage Store Project, Criticizes Intersection

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On Monday, the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) applauded proposed plans for retail and office or apartment spaces at the intersection of Lumber Lane, Montauk Highway and the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike — site of the dilapidated Bridgehampton Beverage Store.

In the same breath, however, many members criticized what they see as a poorly planned existing intersection resulting in “disastrous” and “complicated” traffic conditions in the center of Bridgehampton, and called for action from Southampton Town to remedy the situation.

At the request of the Southampton Town Planning Board, which has been reviewing BNB Ventures proposal to demolish the beverage store and a second ramshackle residence on adjacent property and construct the new approximately 8,700 square foot, two-story Greek revival inspired building, project planner Richard Warren of Inter-Science Research Associates presented the development to the CAC. Members were largely happy with the evolution of the project over the last several years.

In the project’s initial design, Warren explained, the building was larger — 10,000 square feet — clad in brick on one side and wood shingles on the other, wrapping the corner of Lumber Lane and Montauk Highway snuggly. After receiving a positive SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) Declaration from the town planning board, Warren said project sponsors chose to go back to the drawing board, hiring an architectural historian to aid in the project’s design.

The result is a smaller building that no longer wraps the corner and is now wholly clad in painted white wood, a similar style to neighboring Bulls Head Inn and Nathaniel Rogers House. Designed by Frank Greenwald, an East Hampton architect, Warren noted the plan also pushes the building back on the property, in excess of 25-feet from the road, where only 10 is required.

The development of the proposed two-story building, which would house three retail spaces on the ground floor and either three offices or two apartments on the second floor, would also do away with the curb cut that now offers access to the beverage store, redirecting traffic through the parking lot next to Starbucks and the offices of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, which BNB Ventures also owns.

Parking will also be reconfigured said Warren, resulting in 96 spaces between BNB’s proposed development, and the existing parking lot accommodating Starbucks and the real estate office. Seven spaces will be new, said to Warren, who added he is submitting a parking study that shows the number exceeds what is needed in the area.

“We felt it was important to try and see if we could come up with something that has an architecture that works for the area,” said Warren.

The town’s Landmarks and Historic Districts Board has already found the project acceptable, said Warren, although he added “the devil is in the details” and project sponsors want to ensure they don’t end up with a “Disneyland-like” structure.

Peter Wilson, an architect and member of the CAC, called the Lumber Lane, Main Street and Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike intersection “complicated” and said though the already difficult traffic issues at the intersection may not be BNB Ventures responsibility, it should be addressed by town planners.

“That corner right now is totally disastrous,” he said, to the agreement of several CAC members including Christine Smith. Smith suggested that a cut in the triangular piece of land at the right of way would prevent drivers leaving the lot from turning left onto the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike by crossing Lumber Lane, forcing them instead to either turn left onto Lumber Lane only or right towards the highway.

“I am very supportive of this project,” continued Wilson. “It’s the kind of commercial development I personally would like to encourage because it is taking place in the village, not like all this other stuff we are getting bombarded with, with strip mall development.”
Wilson’s endorsement will be adopted as the CAC’s official position on that site, however, the CAC will also be sending a second motion to the town board and planning board calling for Southampton officials to address the “troubling” intersection.

The CAC will also send a resolution asking the town to address safety at Ocean Road Beach by creating facilities that will allow the town to hire lifeguards for the beach.

“It’s the most attractive and most dangerous bathing opportunity we have in our community,” said CAC chairman Fred Cammann who added the issue has been broached before, with the town stating that in order to hire lifeguards they must develop sanitary facilities. A sliver of land near the beach, whose ownership is now being investigated by the town, may allow for that project.

The CAC agreed to ask the town to address safety through the introduction of lifeguards at the beach and present them with any plans in the future.

Water Mill Development Raises Traffic Concerns in Bridgehampton

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Fear of yet more traffic at one of the Hamptons’ busiest intersections has residents of Bridgehampton worried about what is happening five miles down the road in Water Mill.

A proposed development at the southeast corner of Montauk Highway and Flying Point Road has raised concerns among members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) who met with Southampton Town Planning and Development Administrator Jefferson Murphree and Water Mill CAC co-chair Rachel Verno this past Monday. The meeting focused on the details of a planned development district (PDD) which would allow for the construction of four new buildings on approximately three acres at the busy intersection owned by Harrison Gray and the Charos family. The development would also include the existing Princess Diner, former Fortunoff buildings and existing Pier One, the latter two which would be expanded. Property now used by a solar company on the corner of the development would be used for a cromaglass wastewater treatment system.

The development is proposed as mixed use, featuring commercial spaces on the first floor with 47 apartments proposed on the second floors of the buildings, with 16 units slated to be affordable apartments.

A PDD is a mechanism by which the town board can overlay existing zoning with new zoning for a specific project, as long as the development has a public benefit. Affordable units, in this case, would be the public benefit.

Bridgehampton CAC Chairman Fred Cammann opened the discussion praising the Southampton Town Board, under the leadership of Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, for giving CACs a greater role in projects that could impact not just the Bridgehampton community, but the surrounding region as well.

“It isn’t going to be perfect, but at least someone is listening,” said Cammann.

Verno agreed it is encouraging to see CACs working together throughout the town on big issues like this development, particularly when it will impact the town as a whole.

In the meeting, Cammann said that the proposed PDD would have an impact on traffic, not only in Bridgehampton, but also at the intersection of Montauk Highway, County Road 39 and Flying Point Road.

“It isn’t going to be perfect,” said Cammann of the intersection, “but at least someone is listening.”

Verno agreed it is encouraging to see CACs working together throughout the town on big issues like this development, particularly when it will impact the town as a whole.

“To clarify, we not only have a PDD proposal in front of us,” said Verno. “We have an option of sticking with the existing zoning.”

Under existing zoning, the properties can be developed under highway business, which would allow for uses like a furniture store or car dealership, businesses that tend to bring less traffic than other retail uses, noted Verno.

According to Murphree, after a failed attempt at developing one of the parcels in 2004 when residents bristled at the idea of a large scale, wholly commercial development on the site, the Charos family approached the town wondering what would be acceptable for the site outside of highway business uses. The town, said Murphree, thought residential development would be ideal, but the Charos family said they would need to have retail spaces as well to offset the cost.

The planning department initially worked with the family on a PDD similar to this one, but funding fell through and the Charos family took the project and came up with their own revisions with neighboring property owner Gray, said Murphree.

Cammann said retail at the site would encourage more traffic in the area when “it is already a nightmare.”

Gloria Rabinowitz, a member of the Water Mill CAC, noted that the Patio.com business owner – directly across the street – has purchased a northerly adjacent lot and has proposed an over-14,000 square-foot building to replace the current structure. Also zoned for highway business uses, Rabinowitz said, “You look at this corner and you think, whoa, a lot is going on.”

Bridgehampton CAC member Jeffrey Vogel suggested the committee hear the formal response from the Water Mill CAC before weighing in on the proposal, although he reiterated that traffic would be their number one concern.

Verno said Murphree will attend the Water Mill CACs July 12 meeting and the committee hopes to have a formal opinion by August.

Rail Proposal Draws Ire From Bridgehampton CAC

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Members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee said this week that a light rail service, as proposed in a pending state bill drafted by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, would not solve congestion issues on the East End.

The state bill would ask voters from the five East End towns, via a non-binding referendum, to approve the creation of the Peconic Bay Transportation Authority, which essentially would replace service currently provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The non-binding resolution is meant to poll the region’s residents to see if the proposal has support.

Members of the Bridgehampton CAC voted at their meeting on Monday to ask Thiele and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst to explore other options in an attempt to solve the area’s growing traffic problems.

Longtime CAC member Ian MacPherson raised the issue at a Monday, April 26 meeting, sparking debate on what solutions, if any, could solve congestion in Bridgehampton. MacPherson said the idea of a light rail system coupled with bus service on the East End – a concept introduced after the Volpe Center of the United States Department of Transportation studied the issue for the five East End towns – would not reduce traffic in a meaningful way, only taking two to 10 percent of cars off the road.

“The amount of good it would do for solving congestion problems, which is the sole point of the legislation, would be extremely limited at an extremely high price,” said MacPherson.

MacPherson acknowledged there are likely only three ways to reduce congestion — through rail, through improving existing roadways and lastly by building a new road.

Jeffrey Vogel argued that before County Road 39 was extended through Southampton, it took some four-and-a-half hours to reach the East End, and building and tourism increased once it was in place.

“If anything we should be making the roads smaller to discourage people from coming out,” he said.

Richard Bruce supported MacPherson’s point about increasing rail on the East End, stating people simply like being in their cars and he would like to see traffic diverted, through a new roadway or bypass, so it doesn’t come through the towns. He suggested a bypass from County Road 39 near the Omni in Southampton to Stephen Hands Path in East Hampton.

“From a convenience and quality of life standpoint, it would be nice in the middle of August to be able to drive to Southampton in the afternoon,” he said.

“It would never get done,” said Vogel. “Everyone on that road would fight you tooth and nail. It would never get out of court.”

“The point of my motion is the options should be considered,” said MacPherson.

The CAC passed a resolution stating they do not think the bus and rail system would serve the East End’s interests since vehicular traffic is fundamental to the area and therefore request other options, including bypasses, be considered. The resolution will be sent to Thiele and Throne-Holst.

Supports Bridgehampton Boundaries

Also on Monday, Vogel presented the committee with the new Bridgehampton boundary map, completed by the Town of Southampton, which has spent the last several months creating a solid map outlining its various hamlet’s boundaries.

According to Vogel, the town looked at different tax districts, voter records and postal addresses to come to their conclusion. As for Bridgehampton, Vogel said the new map is not controversial at all. The southern border is the Atlantic Ocean from Scott Cameron Beach to the cut at Sagg Pond. The eastern edge of the hamlet runs along the Village of Sagaponack’s boundary, from the center of Sagg Pond north, to just west of Poxabogue Pond. It then continues through the unincorporated portion of Sagaponack, ending a half mile north of Scuttlehold Road. The western boundary goes north from Horse Mill Lane to New Light Lane and from New Light Lane across Montauk Highway up Hayground Road and along Little Noyac Path where it meets Middle Line Highway.

While portions of Mecox and Bay lanes, often viewed as Bridgehampton by many residents, are not technically Water Mill, Vogel explained a number of the residents there see themselves as Southampton or Water Mill residents, not Bridgehampton residents.

The CAC passed a resolution supporting the new boundary lines.

Lastly, Kevin Tate, who lives next to the Wolffer Vineyard reported that the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals appears on the brink of approving a variance that would allow for the construction of six apartments in a converted six-car garage next to his house, pending an agreement about a tree buffer to the neighboring property.

Tate said the worker housing would be year-round, and his concerns have gone unheard by the zoning board of appeals.

“They are riding roughshod over us and we don’t have a leg to stand on in our own town,” he said.

“The solution is the Village of Bridgehampton,” said Vogel. “If you were in Sagaponack, this wouldn’t be happening to you.”

The next ZBA meeting on the project is slated for May 6.

Toddler Park

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In response to inquiries made by Bridgehampton parents, Southampton Town councilwoman Nancy Graboski says the town board plans to construct a toddler park on a town-owned parcel on Corwith Avenue off Montauk Highway. The 1.8 acre property is adjacent to the Bridgehampton Historical Society and was purchased for $800,000 in June 2005 from the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Church.

Because the land was bought with monies from the Park Fund Trust, said Graboski, there is an easement on the property which limits its sanctioned uses. The church also still maintains a right of way through the property, which connects to the church’s parking lot, at the southern end of the parcel.

One permissible use for the site is a playground. Graboski noted the town has already allocated $100,000 for this project. She hopes the project will be completed by the close of 2011 at the latest. The next step, added Graboski, is to form a committee to vet designs ideas followed by creating a design package that could be put out to bid for companies.

The plan, however, already has a snag as the Bridgehampton Citizen’s Advisory Committee would like to see the toddler park placed at the Children’s Museum of the East End, which is located off the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike.

“It is an appropriate place,” said Bridgehampton CAC President Fred Cammann of the CMEE location. Cammann pointed out the museum already has bathrooms on the premises. He argued that Corwith Avenue and Montauk Highway are major thoroughfares, making the town-owned property dangerous for young children.

“You are going to end up in a situation where a kid is going to get badly hurt,” added Cammann.

CMEE Executive Director Steve Long said the museum would be open to a range of partnership ideas with the town.

“Maybe the town would purchase the land … Or it would make more sense for the museum to donate it and have the town build and maintain the park,” suggested Long. “We are trying to figure out how all of it would work.”

During an interview, Graboski said the town had set their sights on the Corwith Avenue parcel for insurance reasons. She added that the park would be within walking distance to the Main Street shops and restaurants in Bridgehampton.

Town May Open Door for Bigger Role for CACs

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Citizen Advisory Committees (CAC) across Southampton Town have spent the last year working towards a greater voice in government, particularly when it comes to development issues, forming coalitions east and west of the Shinnecock Canal. Now they would like the town board to allow the committees an opportunity to weigh in on issues in front of the planning and zoning boards in work session, rather then be limited to letters or three minutes of time during the public hearing phase of an application.

On Monday, April 27 Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot told the Bridgehampton CAC that she would propose an initiative that would “open the door a little wider” for the CAC when it comes to planning board access on development projects that could have a cumulative impact to a particular area of the town.   

Kabot recognized there is a sentiment from town residents that attorneys and planners for applicants have the upper hand in the planning process, with a greater ability to present their case to the board without the matched ability for the CAC to weigh in on a project in front of the planning board until the public hearing phase of a project is underway.

“You don’t feel the playing field is as level for residents, which the planning board wants to be responsive to, but at the same time there has to be a record established,” said Kabot, noting the town must protect itself from being sued by developers. She added that while people are “griping” about the level of development activity in Southampton, compared to other areas on Long Island, Kabot thinks the town has protected itself from being overdeveloped, primarily through “stringent zoning” and preservation.

Regardless, Kabot said she would like to pass a resolution that allows the chair of a CAC to speak on cumulative impacts in front of the planning board during a work session. While not finalized, Kabot said the board may decide to allow the opportunity every other month and split it between CACs on the east and west sides of the town.

“We have to start being able to be more responsive,” said Kabot. “I heard that outcry in the last several years and I would like to be the vehicle to get it there.”

Bridgehampton CAC co-chair Tony Lambert said he was concerned about the zoning board of appeals, charging the board has an agenda and often the CAC is noticed about issues only after the opportunity to weigh in has passed. Lambert also suggested the town host a public forum with both the planning and zoning boards.

Kabot said her local law would be specific to the planning board, noting the zoning board is a quasi-judicial board and the town attorney’s office has objected to the concept. She was open to the idea of a public forum with both boards.

Committee member Jeffrey Vogel said a specific problem with the zoning board was that the CAC often does not receive its notice until the last minute.

“The notice is so short we have to scramble,” he said.

Chairman Fred Cammann said the planning board has improved on noticing the committee and in access to the planning department, but charges the zoning board was inaccessible.

“The issue is we do need to protect the property owner’s rights, especially when it comes to this board,” said Kabot.

John Halsey countered the committee is not trying to infringe on property owner’s rights, nor are they looking for “secret meetings” with the zoning board, but they would like an opportunity to be heard by the board.

Another idea floated at the meeting was an annual report on development and variances — one that would spell out how many projects were approved town wide and how many variances were granted — a concept Kabot warmed to.

The other topic of the evening was the fiscal health of the town, particularly in light of a national economic downturn and a $5 million shortfall in the town’s capital fund.

“I think the town’s budget transcends politics,” said Kabot. “It is not about Republican or Democrat — it is about doing what is right and doing what is right requires working with the full board.”

Kabot said the capital fund shortfall has made her “lose sleep” at night and her top priority is ensuring the board works towards the adoption of a corrective action plan, which it will send to the state comptroller for review.

“We also have issues with our independent auditors,” she said. “Why did this not show up?”

With steep declines in mortgage tax revenues and the Community Preservation Fund with no cushion, Kabot said the board has needed to cut wherever it can without disrupting services for residents. All vacant positions have been abolished in town hall, as have interns, travel budgets and other discretionary spending in the town, she said.

“We really went to what we thought was a more barebones budget,” said Kabot, adding the board will revisit the budget mid-year so any unanticipated loses in revenue as a result of the economy can be addressed sooner rather than later.

The Bridgehampton CAC will meet again on Monday, May 18 at 7 p.m.